What the plain talk of our presidential candidates teaches us about fundraising

by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing.

One thing that can kill a fundraising appeal is trying to sound intelligent by using fancy-sounding fifty-cent words.

That’s why, in this political season, it’s good to look at the two master communicators who are pitching their ideas — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

As fundraisers, we can learn a lot from them. Whatever you may think of their proposals or the lack of them, the candidates know that their political futures depend on their ability to connect with the public through their words.

And the fascinating thing is, they tend to speak at lower grade levels, according to a study by Quote.com.

Hilary Clinton speaks at an eighth-grade level, similar to Barack Obama. Donald Trump, on the other hand, speaks at anywhere from a fifth-grade to a seventh-grade level in his speeches.

That’s in the ballpark for fundraising. In fact, it’s best to try for a sixth-grade level in appeals.

This is important for a few reasons. First, lower grade-level writing is easier to comprehend and quicker to read — no matter how educated the reader. If you keep it around a sixth-grade level, you’re ensuring that your copy is a breeze to read.

Second, simple language is more direct. Don’t think of it as talking down to people. Think of it as communicating with power and impact. Because that’s what plain talk is.

Third, simple language makes you sound more capable and more trustworthy. We’ve all had the experience of hearing someone who was trying to baffle us with doubletalk. It usually doesn’t work.

You can check the readability of your copy with one of the various Flesch Kincaid grade-level tests available online, such as Perry Marshall or the Hemingway App.

(This post comes in at a sixth-grade reading level.)


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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